Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Driving Norway’s Eagle Highway

Simon Raven on the Eagle Highway (Norway) Photo © Chris Raven.
There are few roads in the world more dramatic than the Eagle Highway; a breathtakingly and beautiful pass that crosses towering snow capped peaks, frozen lakes and where eagles soar high above the valleys and fjords of Norway.

Photography Chris Raven

I first heard about the Eagle Highway from a Norwegian guy on holiday with his wife in their RV motorhome. They had just returned from visiting their daughter in Barcelona, and he told me as a long distance truck driver the decision to go on a one-month road trip to Spain was insane. “Fishing, not driving. I should have gone fishing instead," he laughed. We were in a service station south of Oslo. My brother and I had the hood up and we were checking the engine’s bits and bobs. Magnus offered us his mechanical knowledge. While he checked the oil I asked him about Norway and places to visit. He took the time to recommend areas and encouraged us to drive the Eagle Highway, or Ørnevegen as it is called in Norwegian. He described it as a magical road with deep snowdrifts and frozen lakes. I could tell the road was special to Magnus by the excitement in his eyes.

So it was set. We were going to drive the Eagle Highway.

It wasn't long before we were weaving around crystal clear fjords on route to the rainy Hanseatic port of Bergen. It seemed hard to imagine the winterscape that Magus had described. It was summertime here in Norway, fresh and wet with the occasional burst of sunshine penetrating through the gaps in the clouds.

Winding road around a frozen lake (Norway) Photo © Chris Raven 
Starting our journey at the highest point of this scenic stretch of highway, 600 metres above sea level, it was within minutes of driving that we began to see snow at the roadside. Climbing higher, we snaked around sharp bends and passed a large black towering mountain of rock covered in white snow. Looping around to the right the land fell sharply away, as we began to traverse the edge of a large ice blue frozen lake.

Dropping rapidly in altitude the snow began to quickly disappear, revealing a rocky landscape of fast flowing rivers and waterfalls that cut through the steep green valley. Stopping off at Ørnesvingen (Eagle Bend), a viewpoint that offers a dramatic panoramic view over the Seven Sisters Falls, we gazed down at the road that snaked wildly below. There are eleven hairpin bends in short succession on a one in ten incline on this stretch of the road, drawing teams of motor bikers, cyclists and road trippers from across Europe each summer.

Viewpoint at Ørnesvingen (Eagle Bend) Photo © Chris Raven 
As grey storm clouds cast shadows overhead, we raced back to the car and made our way down the mountain in a heavy downpour; pausing only to rest our burning brakes and to appreciate the breathtaking views of the stunning Geirangerfjord below. Arriving at the banks of the sweet water lake, we set up camp for the night and cooked fresh fjord muscles on an open fire. Watching the setting sun flood the sky in warm orange light, I closed my eyes and imagined the solitary eagle we had seen on the pass soaring through the sky in a snowy paradise high above Norway.

Cruise Ship on Geirangerfjord (Norway) Photo © Simon Raven 

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